Queenstown was our first stop in New Zealand and we absolutely loved it (as you can tell in our post our various recs of what to do in town).
And nothing was better than our introductory hike in the Remarkables range to the top of Ben Lomond mountain. It’s a perfect introduction to New Zealand’s Southern Alps. On a good day the 360 views stretch out over glacial lakes, town, and glacier-glad peaks stretching as far as the eye can see.
What to Expect on the Ben Lomond Day Hike from Queenstown
First, this hike is about the view(s) at the top. Therefore you should only do it on a good-weather day where you can expect visibility to be good. In Winter, you can expect some snow on the trail.
In terms of the hike, there are two options for how to begin. Either you walk straight out of town, or you take the $44 gondala (round trip) to save yourself an hour of steep, forested, uphill hiking (and > 400 meters of vertical).
If starting from town you have two access points to the trail:
- the Tiki Trail starting next to the Skyline Gondola base station at the top of Brecon Street, or
- either the top of Skyline Access Road or the bottom of it near Lomond Crescent.
But if money is no object, we highly recommend the Gondola ride as it turns an all day Ben Lomond hike into a very manageable half day hike (if you are fit). Either way, you’re going to be tackling some serious vertical, with the Gondola-enabled hike still going up well over a 1,000 meters to the summit at 1,748 meters.
Here’s the topo to put it into perspective:
Pictures along the Ben Lomond day hike
From the Gondola you emerge above treeline within minutes. The views back towards Lake Wakitipu are instantly very rewarding:
After an hour of steady but relatively gradual climbing on well-graded trail you emerge onto the Ben Lomond Saddle. This is the first true view of the Remarkables range, and if you choose to not proceed to the summit the saddle is a worthwhile out-and-back hike in its own right:
From the Saddle to Ben Lomond’s peak the route steepens. The DOC’s posted time for this section is 1-2 hours to climb the almost 350-400 additional meters. I think we did it in about 35 minutes going up (and closer to the posted time going down). There’s still only 1-2 places where there’s anything resembling a scramble, but the track is definitely narrower, steeper, and harder on this short section.
The reward with virtually every step is bigger and bigger views of the Remarkables range. In fact, only a 10-15 minute scramble past the Saddle the route to the summit curves around the side of Ben Lomond revealing a huge chunk of the rest of the view you get from the summit (including additional glacial lakes):
As you keep climbing rest assured the effort is worth it. The route culminates with a truly amazing 360 view from the summit:
One caveat is worth noting on the summit. If you are planning a celebratory lunch or snack be mindful of the two Keas that make their home here. Keas are beautiful, endangered alpine parrots. They’re also incredibly smart and habituated to humans.
When you do get back to town we highly recommend a stop for a beer or a beer and a burger (see our Queenstown post on where to go :).